Wedding Talk: 10 Tips for Choosing a Venue on a Budget

Ed Note: As wedding season marches along, saving money is the name of the game. Erika Pitera, the creator of the ultra-popular Borrowed & Bleu, joins Block Talk to walk through a few ways to save on one of the biggest of Big Day expenses: the venue. Enjoy!

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning your wedding is the ceremony/reception venue. Before checking out potential spaces, review these ten tips so you’ll know all the important questions to ask to help save money on your wedding day.

1. Review a sample contract. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to ask a venue for a sample contract before you sign your own so you can understand the costs involved. You might find some you hadn’t anticipated (i.e. food and beverage minimums, parking fees, taxes, etc.). After reviewing a contract, you’ll be better equipped to ask potential wedding venues all the right questions to avoid surprises when you receive your final bill.

2. Figure out a weather contingency plan. No matter when or where you’re planning a wedding, it’s always wise to consider the weather. You can’t guarantee perfect weather on your wedding day, so it’s a good idea to ask about a venue’s policies. If you can find a venue that has a great backup space for your wedding if your outdoor ceremony gets rained out, you could save yourself a lot of stress on your wedding day! Although no one wants to dwell on the “what ifs” when planning a wedding, it’s also helpful to see if your ceremony and reception venue is insured, and if so, what it covers. If not, you might want to consider wedding insurance, which will cover the costs associated with cancellations arising from damage or inaccessibility (such as severe weather).

3. Are your dates flexible? If you’re planning on a budget, have you considered a weekday wedding? Weekends are the most popular times for weddings, but some venues offer a discounted rate or lower minimums for different days of the week. Be sure to ask your potential venues if that’s an option for you. Also, try to avoid peak season and holidays to save a little extra on your venue costs. Ever considered a brunch or lunch wedding? Weddings held earlier in the day usually mean a lower tab, too.

4. Use what’s around. Many venues – especially those with historical significance – have a wealth of design elements and décor that can be worked into your wedding theme. When you find a venue that suits your personal style, look around to see if there are any elements in the space that you’ll be able to tie into your floral arrangements, table decor, etc. Authentic antiques can blend in well at a vintage-styled wedding, for example. Be sure to ask the venue if the décor can be left in place during your wedding; if so, it can significantly reduce the amount you’ll need to spend on renting or purchasing other decorations. You can further reduce rental costs by choosing a space that’s already furnished with tables, linens and chairs.

5. Consolidate. Consider choosing a single venue for both your ceremony and reception. That way, you can cut down on travel costs, and you won’t have to pay fees for two separate locations. Don’t be afraid to ask nicely if you can get a bit of a discount if you pay in full when you book the location.

6. Don’t limit yourself to traditional venues. Sometimes, thinking outside of the box when choosing a venue can really save you money. Some of the more budget-friendly places to get married aren’t traditionally considered wedding venues – think of places like city parks, the beach or private residences. However, be sure you obtain any necessary permits before planning your wedding in a public area.

7. Get down with nature. If you’re dreaming of an outdoor wedding, select a space with lots of beautiful flora (i.e. botanical gardens, heavily wooded areas or a garden gazebo) so you can eliminate the need for elaborate and large flower arrangements.

8. BYOB. Ask your venue if you can BYOB. If the reception location allows it, you can purchase your own wine and other alcoholic beverages from a retailer and save some dough.

9. Get the details on ‘preferred vendors.’ Find out if your venue has a preferred vendor list. They might offer a discounted all-inclusive package from their vendors. However, some venues may add a fee if you don’t use a vendor from their list, while others don’t allow any outside vendors at all. Also keep in mind that preferred vendor lists can be a form of advertising and not necessarily the best vendors for you, so be sure to inquire if it is a paid list.

10. Who’s doing the dirty work? Determine whether or not your venue is full service or if you’re simply renting the space. Most full-service venues will handle all the “dirty work” on your wedding day – setting up, cleaning up, etc. – but if you’re only renting a space, you may need to account for separate setup and breakdown costs.

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